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A Pianist Under the Influence (Kindle Single) [Kindle Edition]

Jonathan Biss
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

“Most of what I know about myself, I have learned from playing Schumann.”
—Jonathan Biss

World famous pianist Jonathan Biss has had a special relationship with composer Robert Schumann since he was a child. Avoiding traditional biography and dense musical criticism, Biss writes a moving tribute to one of the most vulnerable composers in classical music history in his second Kindle Single: A Pianist Under the Influence. Biss's first Kindle Single, Beethoven's Shadow, has been a bestseller on Amazon since its release in December 2011.

A Pianist Under the Influence reflects on Biss's life-long, intense, multi-layered relationship with the composer's music and historical treatment. As Biss writes from the unique position of performer, scholar and fan, his Single is both a personal and professional love-letter to the 19th century composer.

An engaging read for anyone interested in the creative process, the Single also includes an annotated audio guide for readers who wish to delve further into the material. A Pianist Under the Influence is an important aspect of Biss's 2012-2013 focus on Schumann, during which Biss and several hand-picked collaborators will perform Schumann's work, music by his notable influences such as Beethoven, Schubert, and Purcell, and selections from his long list of successors ranging from Berg and Janáček to 26-year-old composer Timothy Andres. At the core of the project is four sets of concerts, curated by Biss, including series at Wigmore Hall, the Concertgebouw, Carnegie Hall and San Francisco Performances.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jonathan Biss has appeared with the foremost orchestras of North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Widely regarded known not only for his artistry and poetic interpretations but also for his deep musical curiosity, Biss performs a diverse repertoire ranging from Mozart and Beethoven, through the Romantics to Janáček and Schoenberg as well as works by contemporary composers such as Gyorgy Kurtág and including commissions from Leon Kirchner, Lewis Spratian and Bernard Rands. Biss has a noted recording career. His recordings include an album of Schubert sonatas and two short Kurtág pieces that was named by NPR Music as one of the best albums of the year. In January 2012, Onyx Classics released the first CD in a nine-year, nine-disc recording cycle of Beethoven's complete sonatas. The second album of Beethoven sonatas will release in January 2013. Biss studied at Indiana University and at The Curtis Institute of Music, where he was appointed to the piano faculty in 2010.


Product Details

  • File Size: 168 KB
  • Print Length: 39 pages
  • Publisher: RosettaBooks (September 27, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009IPQKLQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,129 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
"A Pianist Under the Influence" a short dissertation on the music of Robert Schumann by pianist Jonathan Biss. This Kindle e-book was a 140 Kb download (approx. 39 printed pages) and was priced at $1.99 at the time of writing this review.

Background:
1.) I'd previously read Biss's account of the musical influence that Beethoven had on his life and musical career, in his work called "Beethoven's Shadow". So when I saw he had another composer from the 19th century (Robert Schumann) as his latest endeavor, I was interested to see what he had to say.

2.) Although I've no musical capabilities, I've always loved classical music... especially that of Beethoven. But Schumann was another case altogether... never liked his music as judged by the few pieces or small segments I've heard, before turning them off. So I was unsure of whether the examination of this composer would retain my interest or not. It did... in spades!

Some thoughts on "A Pianist Under the Influence"...

Written by a pianist and musician... only an individual with some degree of interest in musical history plus having the extraordinary abilities of a concert class pianist could ever undertake a project such as found in this short book... and so deftly pull it off.

Author Biss takes great pains to make sure the reader is aware of the influence that the music of Schumann has had on him since age nine to present day. Although not really a history of Schumann's life (although there was the occasional reference here and there) this was rather a series of anecdotal accounts as to how his lack of social and communication skills forced him express himself in the one way he knew how... through his music. An appreciation that was not shared by many people...
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A meditation on Schumann December 4, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Jonathan Biss's earlier book, "Beethoven's Shadow" was largely autobiographical whereas this one is more personal. While the first book felt like a collection of events and critical observations centring on Beethoven's musical genius, in this book the writing appears closer to the heart. It is a very sensitive, empathetic portrayal of Robert Schumann who comes across as the author's tragic hero. Throughout the book, Biss evokes brilliantly the loneliness that Schumann lived with and which permeated his music. Schumann left the gift of his music to posterity, but that music would not ameliorate the pain and sadness in his own life. Biss writes that his experience of Schumann's is tremendously powerful. But he can put it aside when it becomes dangerously so. For Schuman though there was no such escape as "he was permanently trapped inside his fantastic, blighted mind".
Biss acknowledges that the sentimentality of the music of the 19th century sits uncomfortably with today's music, where image and irony is everything. It is as if Biss wants to deliberately thumb his nose at this attitude - "the soft bigotry of received wisdom" which has led to Schumann being so misunderstood - by adopting a reverent and wistful tone while speaking of Schumann's music.
The book is not all about Schumann, though. Biss includes also a short review of the works of some of his favourite composers from the 20th and 21st centuries, all of whom, Biss opines, share an ache for the past. This survey includes some not so adulatory observations about Schumann too. There is nevertheless an undercurrent of love and reverence that pervades these critical notes on the life and works of Schumann.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Program Notes October 25, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As someone who loves Classical music but is not a trained musician, I wish everyone who wrote about that music could do so with the insight and passion of this author. I've often felt distanced from Schumann for just the reasons Biss cites from his detractors--all that intensity without a discernable purpose, the lack (sometimes) of variation, and several other attributes familiar to anyone who has looked at a concert program and felt a little disappointed to see the name of Schumann.

This opened the music up to me in ways I had not expected, and I'm going to try again, using some of the recordings that Biss mentions, including his own. I wish that Amazon had found a way to insert musical excerpts into the manuscript as links. As someone interested in the psychological implications of music and aware (although not always consciously) of its power over the psyche, I was fascinated by the idea of Schumann's baring his soul so unsparingly. This book is highly recommended.Now on to Biss's thoughts about Beethoven.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Read This at Bedtime September 21, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
This wasn't the pre-sleep wind down I was expecting -- not even close. As someone completely unversed in classical music (Romantic era composers, or otherwise), I was totally unprepared for the depth of my reaction to Biss's extraordinarily touching tribute to Robert Schumann. This short piece is exceptional in so many ways -- from the author's singular writing to the details of Schumann's awkward life, unusual marriage, and protracted mental decline. But what really created a frisson of emotional excitement in me (actually two things) was the author's effusive, heartfelt expression of what the composer has meant to him since the age of nine (and I gotta wonder -- did Schumann's mama even love him this much?) and Biss's absolutely compelling descriptions of Schumann's music. (You WILL want to hear what the author hears, even if it is 1 A.M.) I can't recommend this enough.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Such beautiful, concise, poignant writing, you feel the writer's heart and soul. Bravo to you Sir.
Published 17 days ago by Neer Berchik
4.0 out of 5 stars Understanding Schumann
A Pianist Under the Influence by Jonathan Biss is a very well written discussion about Schumann's works. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Anne Becker
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Beautiful and incisive writing of Robert Schumann' s piano music on this up and coming pianist.
Published 4 months ago by TC
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
This book is OK for a young reader only.
Published 5 months ago by James Clay
4.0 out of 5 stars A Pianist Under the Influence
Author Jonathan Biss has written two kindle singles – the first about Beethoven and this, about his relationship with the music of Robert Schumann. Read more
Published 6 months ago by S Riaz
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written; a paean to Schumann
I took an interest in Jonathan Biss upon taking the Beethoven Sonata course online that he is offering through the Curtis Institute. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Caldog
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great essay by Jonathon
Just as captivating as the Beethoven essay this one compels you to listen to Schumann and ever more closely than you might have previously!
Published 17 months ago by Robert Jc Thomson
3.0 out of 5 stars deep inside musician baseball
A great pianist's very personal take on Robert Schumann. Might inspire giving Schumann a second listen. I still don't really get him though.
Published 17 months ago by A. W. Hile
5.0 out of 5 stars Piano
Great real life story, akin to Wild Swans. Engrossing reading and makes you wander from the book to find things out! Read more
Published 18 months ago by Jan Mitchell
2.0 out of 5 stars For those looking for technical information about Robert Schumann
This wasn't what I expect at all. As a musician I was looking for a good story about musicians, not some technical tome about Robert Schumann. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Beverly C. Simmons
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More About the Author

Jonathan Biss has appeared with the foremost orchestras of North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Widely regarded known not only for his artistry and poetic interpretations but also for his deep musical curiosity, Biss performs a diverse repertoire ranging from Mozart and Beethoven, through the Romantics to Janáček and Schoenberg as well as works by contemporary composers such as Gyorgy Kurtág and including commissions from Leon Kirchner, Lewis Spratian and Bernard Rands. Biss has a noted recording career. His recordings include an album of Schubert sonatas and two short Kurtág pieces that was named by NPR Music as one of the best albums of the year. In January 2012, Onyx Classics released the first CD in a nine-year, nine-disc recording cycle of Beethoven's complete sonatas. The second album of Beethoven sonatas will release in January 2013. Biss studied at Indiana University and at The Curtis Institute of Music, where he was appointed to the piano faculty in 2010.

Photo by Jamie Jung

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